Ke Huey Quan, Comeback Kid: The Oscar Winner on ‘Everything Everywhere’, Kissing Harrison Ford and Why She’s Worried About What’s Ahead

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Ke Hui Quan was on a mission. he was just named Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Waymond Wang, the nosy husband of a laundromat owner in “Everything’s All at Once”, and he wanted to experience the moment with Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, you see, was the filmmaker who cast him in his breakout role in 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” when Kwan was 12 years old.

So during a commercial break on the Academy Awards telecast, Kwan, 51, sat beside Spielberg with his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, whom Kwan had not seen since they co-starred in “Temple of Doom” four decades earlier. . , After an all-around hug, Spielberg placed a hand on Kwan’s shoulders and said, “You are now an Oscar-winning actor.”

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The depth of this statement was not lost on either of them, as Kwan’s Oscar win capped off one of the most improbable comeback stories in Hollywood history. For decades, he was relegated to the fringes of the movie business, left without a career — and health insurance.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

It’s been less than hours since Quan bounded up the steps of the Dolby Theater stage and told the story of being an immigrant from Vietnam – the seventh of nine children – who achieved the “American dream” after a lot of hard work. And this morning, despite a marathon night of partying, their jubilant energy is infectious.

Still, there’s an underlying hesitation in Quan’s voice. He worries that he will wake up from this dream and find that his resurrection has evaporated. “I had a conversation with my agent,” he says. “I’m very concerned that this is only a one-time thing.”

Ke Hui Quan Variety Oscar Cover

Ke Hui Quan Variety Oscar Cover

Like many immigrants, Quan’s parents wanted him to become a doctor or a lawyer—anything that would provide economic stability. Instead, fate intervened when his younger brother attended an open casting call to play Short Round, Indiana Jones’ sidekick. But there was something about Quan, age 12, that made the cast think they’d found the perfect foil for cinema’s most famous archaeologist, and Quan, not his brother, landed the role. The following summer, he played Data, one of the treasure-hunting misfits in Richard Donner’s “The Goonies”.

So it was over. For 30 years, Kwan faced countless failed auditions. He later attended USC Film School and worked as a fight choreographer on “X-Men” and developed projects for director Wong Kar Wai at his production company Jet Tone Films. It was here that he met his wife, Echo, whom he considers the unsung hero of his recent success. Every month for the past 20 years, Echo tells her husband, “Trust me, your time will come.”

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“At times, I was frustrated with him,” Quan says, holding back tears as he recalls their conversation. “I told her, ‘You keep saying that, and it’s never going to happen.’ I couldn’t believe it. Twenty years is not a short time.”

There are never guarantees in Hollywood. But Kwan is making the most of his turn as an awards-season darling. completed projects sit on the runway: two television series, “American Born Chinese” and the second season of the MCU’s “Loki” for Disney+, as well as the upcoming sci-fi film “The Electric State” with Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt. To date, there is no other offer on the table.

But this morning is for celebration. Kwan plans to fly to LA to show his idol to his mother. Before he does, he sits down to discuss the journey that led him to the Oscars.

how are you feeling?

I’m still processing it. I didn’t get much sleep last night – I think it was only an hour. When I woke up, it took me a minute or two to wonder whether it was a dream. But I’ve been through a lot lately, because so many things have happened in the last year and it feels surreal.

When you accepted your Oscar, you talked about being a refugee and living in a camp. How did you end up in America?

I was a normal kid in Vietnam in 1978, and all of a sudden my parents decided to flee the country. I don’t understand what is happening. All I knew was that I was separated from my mother, my younger brother and some of my sisters. It was past midnight when my father, my five siblings and I escaped in a boat. We arrived in Hong Kong, and I spent a whole year in a refugee camp, surrounded by security personnel and police officers, until we were granted political asylum. Then I got on a plane and landed in Los Angeles for the first time. This was in 1979.

I didn’t have the maturity to process the sacrifices my parents made so that we could have a better future. And as luck would have it, four years later, I got a job on “Indiana Jones,” which changed my life. I always wanted to thank my parents for what they did, but I grew up in a family where we didn’t share that kind of feelings with each other. And then last night I did that publicly. I wanted the world to know how much my parents meant to me. Also, our film, “Everything Everywhere at Once” is about this immigrant family. That’s why the story resonated so much with me.

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Ke Hui Quan Variety Cover Story Oscar

Ke Hui Quan Variety Cover Story Oscar

Not Only Did You Win, But Jamie Lee Curtis Won Best Supporting Actress, and Michelle Yeoh Made History became the first Asian actress To win a leading actress Oscar.

Just before this happened, I looked over at Michele, and I knew she was very nervous. And we held each other’s hands: Jamie was close to her, so Michelle held Jamie’s hand, Jamie held mine, and I held Stephanie Sue’s hand. We were just hoping and praying that his name would be called. And then history was created.

Does this make you hopeful for the future in terms of Asian representation?

Forget about 30, 40 years ago – even 10 years ago. Look at where we are now: The landscape looks very different. We have a seat at the table. Our voices are being heard. Our faces are being watched, and it feels amazing.

There was a mini-“Indiana Jones” reunion on stage last night. Harrison Ford was the man who opened the envelope and announced that “Everybody Everywhere All at Once” had won Best Picture. how was that?

When he opened that envelope and read the title, it made our win for Best Picture even more special. And when I ran on stage, I pointed at her and she pointed at me and I hugged her. I just couldn’t help myself. I just want to shower this man with all my love. I planted a big kiss on Harrison Ford’s cheek.

How was your first day on the sets of the film?

I listened to Steven instruct me, and every time I did something he liked, he’d give me a high-five.

Do you remember the first time you saw “Temple of Doom”?

We saw it at Mann’s Chinese Theatre. It was the first time I saw myself on the big screen. It was a great feeling to watch the film with the audience and hear them laughing and clapping. I wanted to repeat it again and again.

You made two movies with Steven Spielberg back to back – “Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies.” Do you think you’re going to reprise your role in “The Last Crusade”?

I was secretly hoping. But to be honest, Steven has given me a lot – not one movie, but two movies. And he was the first person to cast an Asian face in a major Hollywood film.

Ke Hui Quan Variety Cover Story Oscar

Ke Hui Quan Variety Cover Story Oscar

After those films, you struggled to find roles. What happened?

I was taught never to blame anyone. If something doesn’t go your way, it’s because you either didn’t try hard enough, you weren’t good enough or you didn’t try hard enough. So when I didn’t get the job, I blamed myself: I thought I wasn’t tall enough, I wasn’t good looking enough, or I wasn’t a good enough actor because I wasn’t classically trained. I’ve never blamed anyone – not even today.

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We talk about Asian representation, but I don’t like to look back and say, “Oh my god, that was so bad!” I’d rather focus on the present and move on. A lot has changed.

How is your relationship with your parents?

My father passed away in 2001, but I had a very good relationship with both my parents. I was a little kid and I had all these wonderful opportunities with “Indiana Jones” and “The Goonies”; I could feel the happiness and pride of my parents. And then, as those opportunities dried up, I could see them wanting something different for me, because they could sense that I wasn’t happy. My mother is a very superstitious person, so she used to tell me to go to astrologers. He was a Buddhist, so I used to see my mother praying to Buddha to give me a career. That’s why it was so painful for me – because there was nothing that I could do to get someone to cast me in a movie or land a big role for me. And that’s one of the things I hate about my business.

It’s a big comeback for you, but you don’t have any projects. Are you worried that, despite the success of “Everything Everywhere at Once”, you won’t be cast again?

I recently attended an event and sat next to Cate Blanchett. I told him that I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I feel I have a responsibility to do something good, and I don’t want to let down all the people who have supported me. And she said, “Just go with your heart and be irresponsible: don’t worry about what other people think. Choose something you believe in, choose something you love, and things will work out.” Will do

Location: Mandarin Oriental Residences, Beverly Hills; Grooming: Anissa Salazar; Chloe Takayanagi / The Wall Group; Made to measure Giorgio Armani; Brooch: Fred Leighton; Cufflinks: David Yurman; See: Omega; Glasses: Oliver Peoples

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